Soap making has grown in popularity over the past few years. You can find an abundance of tutorials, books, and supplies online. Crafters enjoy practicing different recipes and learning how to improve the soaps they make. Some make soaps just for themselves and family. And, others turn into a business, selling their goods at craft shows, farmers markets, and shops both online and locally. Now, you can learn a little bit about how soap making has evolved through history.
History of Soap Making
When you read about the history of soap making you soon realize some things. First how what we do today to make soap has been handed down for centuries. And, the same recipes and techniques you learn today were first used 1000's of years! It has just developed and been improved upon with knowledge and supplies available.
The earliest history of soap making goes back to antiquity. Although, the form of soap at that time different from today. The Hindus of India used a natural substance with the qualities of soap made from Reeta nut powder. They used this when they bathe every morning, as required in the Ayurvedic way of life. In addition to this, a Babylonian soap recipe on clay tablet dating back to 2200 BC was found. It had the ingredients: cassia oil, alkali and water. Egyptians also made their own soapy substances mixing alkali salts with vegetable and animal oils.
Early Arab Soap Making
The history of soap as we know it today started in the Arab world. It was the Arabs who mixed vegetable oils with aromatic oils to make soap. They were also the first people to use lye or sodium hydroxide. According to the history of soap, the Arab’s ancient soap recipe has not changed much. And, it is essentially how commercial soaps are made today.
Traditional soaps made by the Arabs contained fragrances and dyes, just like modern-day soaps. The Arabs made not only hardened soaps but liquid soaps as well as special shaving soap. A look at the Arab history of soap, one would discover that the “melt and pour” method of soap-making also came from the Arabs. A 13th century soap recipe details the process.
In Europe, the most notable part is the production of Castile soap in the 16th century. It uses only vegetable oil as opposed to animal oil or a combination of animal and vegetable oils. You can find Castile soap in stores today. And, it's used in many handmade bath and body recipes.
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Soap Manufacturing Started
The commercial history of soap began in the Industrial Revolution. Large scale and high-quality soap production emerged such as the one in late 18th century London by Andrew Pears, whose transparent soaps were known to be of such good quality that he and his grandson, Francis, were able to open a soap factory in Isleworth several decades after the success of their business. Soap powder was introduced to the market by Robert Spear Hudson in 1873.
Around 1850s, a fellow named William Gossage was manufacturing good quality but affordable soaps. William and James Lever started what would be one of today’s largest soap enterprises, Unilever, in a small soap factory in Warrington in the late 19th century. These businesses were the first in the history of soap to utilize massive campaigns to advertise their products.
The modern-day history of soap making shows that soap use became widespread in industrialized regions because people understand better the importance of cleanliness and controlling pathogenic diseases. In the late 19th century, the first commercial bars of soap were manufactured. There were also advertisements of soap shown all around America and Europe to boost the awareness of people about hygiene and health. And then, around 1950’s, everyone considered soap as essential to personal hygiene.
Today, you see a mix of factory made soaps made with a lot of chemicals. Sadly, not all are great for your skin or health. Luckily, though, there are more natural soaps created by small businesses. They craft their soaps in small batches. And, they care greatly about what they put into their soaps to maximize the benefits. Or, you can learn how to make your own soaps!